Minus the City: The Green Monster

Cary Reed

I was eating grilled cheese and flipping through Allure when something in the “Sex, Love and Happiness” section caught my eye: 31% of people in relationships have experienced the feeling of out-of-control jealousy. My first reaction was, how can two-thirds of the entire coupled population escape without the tiniest pang of jealousy?

I classify it as a secondary emotion. Rather than operating on its own, jealousy requires fuel from base emotions including sadness, rage, low self-esteem, etc. No matter the base, small amounts of jealousy are normal and can even be a sign of underlying love. On the other hand, out-of-control jealousy can be detrimental to a relationship. But what constitutes “out-of-control”?

In high school I heard a rumor that my boyfriend was fooling around with a former fling, so I rerouted my one-mile drive home to include the five-mile route past his ex-girlfriends house – just to get a change of scenery, of course. The first time I saw his car parked out front I convinced myself it was a fluke. It wasn’t until the fourth time that I confronted him.

The first drive-by was due to my curiosity and the last drive by was for the purpose of breaking up, but the middle two visits were driven by pure jealousy and that strange, self-torturing urge to confirm that the worst case is, in fact, the scenario. So can this be classified as out-of-control?

If yes, then I’d like to argue that I know all of the people in that 31%. In fact, we all know people who “happen” to run into their ex’s. Or who borrow his/her phone to scroll through the address book (slash call history). Or who can name conspicuous facebook friends (who are then confirmed by your friends to be uglier than you). But if this behavior is not out-of-control, what is?

On Jerry Springer or Ricky Lake or even some episodes of Maury, we can see the wrath of the green monster: someone hurt someone because he slept with his ex-girlfriend and, fourteen DNA tests later, he just found out he’s not the baby’s daddy. When jealousy makes someone violent, I would argue that it has reached the point of out-of-control. But then out-of-control jealousy becomes synonymous with psychotic or obsessive behavior. These are the people who become so jealous that they slash tires or leave threatening notes or find some other way to intentionally hurt another. If this is true, that 31% – which seemed so small before – becomes a very large number. And if this statistic is based on Allure readers alone (a smaller sample size than our entire US population), the number just got scarier.

So either 69% of the population is denying their semi-stalker-could-be-classified-as-out-of-control-jealousy-but-is-actually-realtively-normal behavior, or one-third of our neighbors straddle the psychotic line.

But Allure never mentioned anything about out-of-control jealousy while not in a relationship. So, I guess, for a while then, some of us are sane.